The Stranger in the Lifeboat – Mitch Albom

This one took me by surprise. The story dives straight in, leaving reader intrigued and focused on the events unfolding. It is well written, quirky, with touches of humour and the fascinating circumstances kept me involved and desperate to read on. Technically there are some good mechanics that lead the reader in different directions, cliff-hangers and plot twists that zigzag the reader across the story. A great example of creative thinking, using the gift of imagination to tell a thought-provoking story, written with skill. Never a dull moment.

I can see that it will be the sort of book that may divide opinion, as it is slightly “off the wall” for this genre. It could be a classic in the making, or perhaps it will sink without a trace? A question I like to ask of any book, especially Christian fiction, is “what did I learn of the nature of God?” My view is that if it points truthfully towards the profound purposes and love of God, and shares something of that with the reader, then it is a great read. And this is what The Stranger in the Lifeboat does.

On the surface, it may be a story of a character being physically rescued. But it also shouts about the immense steps God will go to, to rescue an individual, to save a soul, to leave the 99 and focus all His efforts on the one. So it is not the sort the story that you first think it is, about a group of people in a lifeboat lost at sea. In fact it is a story about how God reaches and saves those at a point of despair in their lives.

A story of how, when we can be so lost in despair that we can see no way out, we eventually can only give in to the pull of a loving Father. We can then simply sit and rest in His overwhelming peace, and just be.
Especially after the loss of loved ones.

The story highlights the many and mysterious workings on God and shouts of the depth of his love. It shows that His rescue so much deeper … it is also emotional and spiritual salvation.

In my view this is a delightful story, an allegory working on many levels … we are all plunged into a lifeboat at some point in our lives, needing rescuing. Sometimes our rescue comes from unexpected quarters and forms. When in the worst moments of our lives, times of trauma, stress, breakdown, mourning or crisis, we can be rescued and carried by a God who cares and loves profoundly. In the midst of our brokenness we still have hope.

A quick note about the ”Lord” character from the book, presented as enigmatic and mysterious, which in fact mirrors some characteristics of Christ. As an author who tried carefully to put words into the mouth of Jesus, when writing Beneath the Tamarisk Tree, I know the weight of responsibility that comes with this, and how careful a writer needs to be to keep those words in line with scripture. Mitch Albom keeps it brief, which is sensible and safe. An appropriate way to handle this particular challenge.

Overall, it was a great read, unconventional and thought provoking … just like Jesus !

… and apologies for some of the sea-faring puns that have crept in here – I could not resist !

The Stranger in the Lifeboat, by Mitch Albom, is available here.